Charity shops are now a feature of virtually every High Street in Britain and comprise about 5% of all retail outlets. Some people may see them as a symptom of urban decline and an indication that an area is going down hill.
However, I would like to suggest that charity shops are a positive force for good and that they should be welcomed as they fulfil a number of key roles:
- They provide a source of sustainable income to charitable organisations. A good charity shop can bring in around £50,000 income to a charity. Central and local government have cut back on funding to voluntary groups so it is more important for charities to break free from grant funding and become sustainable. Approx. 19% of the income of UK charities comes from charity shops.
- Charity shops sell (or recycle) goods which would otherwise go to landfill. We all throw out a huge amount of unwanted goods each year. Without charity shops to provide an outlet we would need to pay for more landfill sites.
- Charity shops provide a wide range of goods to people on low incomes. Whilst the economy has picked up and there are few unemployed people many of those in work are on zero hours contracts, minimum wage or in part time work. The charity shop offers clothes, shoes, household goods and furniture at very low prices. By being able to buy goods at very low cost many people may be able to avoid debt and manage their money more carefully.
- Charity shops are mainly staffed by volunteers. Volunteering is a proven pathway to employment. Many young people are now volunteering to work in charity shops to gain valuable experience which will help them gain paid employment.
- Charity shops usually occupy secondary locations which would be otherwise be vacant. Empty shops create a bad impression and often lead to vandalism and dereliction of an area.
- Charity shops are fun! Where else can you get for £1 last year’s best-selling novel or a CD by that band you had always meant to listen to? Need a suit for an interview that you will probably never wear again – try the charity shop!
Next time your are in town do not despair at the growing number of charity shops –instead celebrate their existence and step inside and see the wide range of goods they stock.
Many shops are fitted out to a very high standard with goods properly priced and displayed.By purchasing from a charity shop you are making a real contribution to that charity.
When you are having a clear out at home don’t automatically put everything in the bin. Sort through unwanted clothes, books, bric-a-brac, etc and take them to your nearest shop. Some charities operate furniture shops and will collect larger items.
If you have time on your hands why not consider volunteering in a charity shop I’m sure they would really appreciate it?
by David Harris